Key U.S. Economic Indicators for Today: ISM Services Slows; Factory Orders Up

Here is a quick summary of the key U.S. economic indicators released today: ISM Services Index slows; Factory Orders increased; Pending Home Sales eased; December retail sales rose 3.1%; Auto Sales decline; Challenger layoff report; and Monsters Online Employment report.

ISM Services Index, December:

ISM's Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index in December registered 57.1% compared to the 58.9% registered in November, indicating a slower rate of growth in business activity in December, according to the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business.Non-manufacturing business activity is continuing to increase for the 45th consecutive month, but at a slower rate. 

  • Nine of 18 non-manufacturing industries reported increased activity in December. 
  • ISM's Non-Manufacturing New Orders Index decreased to 54.4 percent in December from the 57.1 percent registered in November.
  • ISM's Non-Manufacturing Employment Index for December is 53.3 percent, an increase of 1.7 percentage points from the 51.6 percent reported in November.
  • ISM's Non-Manufacturing Prices Index for December is 59.1 percent, 3.5 percentage points higher than November's index of 55.6 percent.

Factory Orders, November:

New orders for manufactured goods in November increased 0.9% to $394.3 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This followed a 4.5% decline in October. 

Shipments, up three of the last four months, increased $0.4 billion or 0.1 percent to $390.0 billion. This followed a 0.1 percent October increase.  The inventories-to-shipments ratio was 1.24, up from 1.23 in October.

Pending Home Sales, November:

The Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in November, eased by 0.5% to 107.0 from an upwardly revised reading of 107.5 in October, and is 11.4% lower than November 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

Retail Sales, December:

U.S. retail sales at stores open more than a year rose 3.1% in December, making this year's holiday season the slowest in two years, the International Council of Shopping Centers said today

For the two-month holiday season (November and December combined), chain store sales posted a 2.8% gain, which was in line with ICSC's projections of a 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent gain for the season. By comparison, the 2005 holiday season posted a 3.6 percent increase.

Auto Sales, December:

U.S. December auto sales inched up 0.1% to 1,430,670 (Reuters report). However, the total auto sales in December have decline 3.6% to 1,431,415, according to data compiled by Autodata. 

The Monster Employment Index, December:

The Monster Employment Index declined 8 points to 167 in December, mostly in line with seasonal expectations, reflecting an anticipated year-end seasonal slowdown in U.S. online recruitment typical of the final month of the year. 

Since its inception in 2003, the Index has dipped at least three points each year in the month of December. Nevertheless, year-over-year growth for Index now stands at 22 points, or 15%, demonstrating greater overall U.S. online job availability compared to 2005.

Monster Employment Index is a monthly analysis of U.S. online job demand conducted by Monster Worldwide, Inc. 

Initial Jobless Claims, wk of 12/30:

In the week ending Dec. 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted Initial jobless claims increased 10,000 to 329,000 in the week ending December 30, according to the Department of Labor. The 4-week moving average was 317,500, an increase of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average of 316,250.

Challenger Layoffs Report, December:

The year ended on a particularly positive note with 54,643 planned job cuts announced in December, 29% fewer than November’s 76,773 cuts and 49% fewer than the 107,822 job cuts announced in December 2005, according to Challenger Gray layoffs report.  December was the third smallest job-cut month of the year behind May (53,716) and July (37,178). 

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